Interview by Arnold van der Walt
“Keep calm it’s only music.”
Carpenter Brut has undoubtedly become one of the biggest names in the ever expanding synthwave scene. He is known for his explosive live shows where dynamic neon lighting culminates in a synergy of live instrumentation and electronic music production. Big hair, an abundance of leather, thrashing guitars, keyboard solos and hard hitting drums are all to be expected from this amazing project. But little is known about the man behind Carpenter Brut, but there is beauty in his mystery; he instead opts to let the music speak for itself, the way music was intended to be.
Carpenter Brut has been taking the synthwave industry by storm, becoming one of the most loved and well-known artists of the genre. His music has been viewed more than 40 million times on Youtube and currently has more than 113 million streams on Spotify alone. He is a musical pioneer that combines electronic production with guitar riffs rooted in metal, creating a bridge between fans of rock and electronic music. Carpenter Brut’s 80s neon horror aesthetic is a part of his signature macabre brand.
We sat down for an exclusive interview with the elusive Carpenter Brut and spoke about the resurgence of 80s nostalgia, the crossover between metal and electronic music and why he chooses to stay out of the spotlight. Read more below:
Hi Carpenter Brut, thank you for speaking with us! You recently released a remix of Ghost’s ‘Dance Macabre’ How has the response to this track been?
Much to my surprise, pretty good actually. People actually liked the remix, even if obviously the most hardcore Ghost fans found the original better or found the remix not metal or rock enough. Anyway, to catch people off guard is what I prefer to do in music.
Your music is a flawless crossover between electro/synth and metal. Do you believe more metal fans should listen to electronic music?
I don’t know, I’m not a lecturer, I would rather say “people do what they want”. Overall, crossover movements (rap/rock, funk/rap etc, industrial etc…) have often been reclaimed by the metal scene which in my opinion shows that this audience is quite open-minded, perhaps more than other audiences. Obviously there will always be “extremists” of music, to nitpick about what is “in the Book” or not… but personally I don’t make music for these people.
What would you consider are some of the biggest challenges artists face that work in crossover genres like yourself?
Perhaps the one of privileging one style over another and not being able to maintain a certain balance. But actually, it’s not really a question I ask myself, basically I try to make songs that I like, the rest is a story of a drawer in which we put styles.
The resurgence of 80s nostalgia has been abundant as of late; with media like ‘Drive’, ‘Stranger Things’ and cyberpunk-styles taking over the video game industry. Why do you think that is?
I think there is a revival of the 80s because it was a great, fun and carefree time, just the opposite of now. It’s also the decade of the height of pop culture: Original stories like Ghostbuster, Back To the Future, Robocop but also the rise of slasher movies, derivative products, fluorescent clothes etc… in short when you think about it it those days were pretty happy, wasn’t it?
Gary Numan is quoted as saying: “I have always been far more interested in sound than technique, and how sounds work together, how they can be layered. I think electronic music, (in its infancy anyway) allowed us to create music in a way that hadn’t really been possible before. It created a new kind of musician.” What are your thoughts on this statement?
I totally agree. Basically, long before Carpenter Brut’s project, I am a sound producer/engineer so tinkering with sounds, trying machines and trying to make all this sound together is completely what I prefer to do. The idea of manipulating sounds and deriving effects from them to use them in composition is a necessary process. It’s a bit like in a laboratory: you’re going to have to go through a lot of failed tests to get something presentable.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together? Any gear/software you simply can’t work without?
I mainly work with Ableton Live, the plugs in Arturia, korg. But now I also have a lot of hardware Synths like several Dave Smith Instruments or Moog, Elektron or Roland. I like plugs for their side recall settings, but I also like spending time turning knobs and trying stupid things with them. I build my rig over time with the means I have. It’s something I’m very passionate about.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Definitely studio work. I’m not a stage animal and I don’t think I ever will be. I enjoy performing and sharing with the audience, but even if it means choosing I prefer to be in my studio tinkering with sounds.
Watch Carpenter Brut’s brand new music video for ‘Monday Hunt’:
(WARNING: Video contains violence and nudity)
You chose to cloud yourself in mystery, instead opting to let the music speak for itself. Has it been difficult keeping this up in the modern digital age?
I remain convinced that music, art in general, whatever it may be, must come before the person behind it, if this person is called John, Paul or Cynthia who cares? Since the beginning of Carpenter Brut I have been fighting with the press who absolutely wants to put my face on their articles, as if the content of their articles was based on the fact that my mouth appears on them… the same for putting my name and surname on them. Anyway, it’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me. So to reply your question, it is pretty much difficult to remain “anonymous” nowadays.
What are your thoughts on the stigma that electronic artists aren’t ‘real musicians’ as they only press a couple of buttons?
In electronic music you can find DJs who throw playlists by pressing the “play” button on their computer in clubs but also musicians like JM Jarre, Justice, Daft Punk
etc… in short the spectrum of electro music is quite wide. I don’t think we can call JM Jarre a fake musician. I think that in general people who don’t know a style tend to denigrate things out of ignorance rather than to learn about things.
You are embarking on a massive worldwide tour soon with Gost in several countries in Europe and later with Ministry in North America. Do you have anything special planned for these shows? What can fans expect?
Nothing special, I’m just going to try to have a great time and have fun on stage. Meet new fans but also new audiences like Ministry’s fanbase… Well… my speech sounds pretty demagogic, but that’s why we do tours.
Apart from the tours, what does the future hold for Carpenter Brut?
The Soundtrack of the medium-length film ‘Blood Machine’ directed by my friends Seth Ickerman (directors of the ‘Turbo Killer’ video clip). The continuation of the ‘Trilogy’ started with my last album, ‘Leather Teeth’, which should be released in 2020.
Famous last words…
Keep calm it’s only music.
For more information and tickets on Carpenter Brut’s expansive tour, visit No Quarter Prod.
Tour dates below: